In the last decade, more than 2.5 million people worldwide died due to drowning. Sadly, more than 90% of drowning deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries. These figures fail to capture the countless drownings attributable to flood-related disasters, boating accidents and water transportation incidents. In Vietnam, drowning is still one of the leading causes of death among children. According to a 2020 estimate, more than 2,000 children under the age of 16 lose their lives every year due to drowning.
Since 2018, Vietnam has been addressing child drowning through a partnership between Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs (MOLISA). As part of this partnership, the Global Health Advocacy Incubator (GHAI) supports the implementation of an evidence-based drowning prevention program focused on survival swimming and water safety skills for children between 6-15 years of age. Recently, GHAI and WHO Vietnam assisted MOLISA in drafting the National Child Injury Prevention Program.
On July 19, 2021, the Prime Minister approved the 10-Year Action Plan on Child Injury Prevention 2021-2030, taking a monumental step towards a sustainable drowning prevention program. The 10-Year Action Plan aims for a 10% reduction of child drowning deaths by 2025 and 20% by 2030. The first national implementation workshop for the Action Plan was held on November 30, 2021 and was chaired by the Vice Ministers of MOLISA and the Ministry of Education and Training (MOET), the WHO Representative and the GHAI Vietnam Country Director, launching a nationwide push for child injury prevention.
The sustainability of drowning prevention in Vietnam is being ensured through government funding of the program and integration of standard survival swim and water safety guidelines into the education system. Early assessment of the program shows that the rate of children who can swim has nearly doubled (from 14.7% to 25.5%) in the program locations. The program will train at least 13,000 children on survival swimming and 20,000 children on water safety education in 2022. A major expansion of the program will also happen in 2022 under the leadership of MOLISA, reaching a total of 22 provinces and covering a total of 47% of the national child drowning burden.